Peri-urban gardens germinate in the hands of Bolivian women

Peri-urban gardens germinate in the hands of Bolivian women

"The men were engaged in bricklaying and 78 percent of the women did not have a job, did not have a trade, washed clothes for others or sold in the market," the secretary for Productive Development and Plural Economy of the autonomous government of the department told IPS. southeast of Chuquisaca, Lucrecia Toloba.

Dressed in a wide-brimmed felt hat, hair combed into two fine braids, a short pollera (ethnic skirt) and light clothing for the temperate climate of the Andean valleys, the Quechua Toloba is an educator who now administers the Agriculture Program in the region. Urban and Periurban.

In his modest office, he explains that women are the protagonists of the program, which gives them the recognition of their families and their community, diversifies the diet of their homes and gives them economic autonomy, with the sale of their organic vegetables in the city, which also benefits from this healthy and diversified offer.

Five kilometers from there, on the outskirts of the city, women from the neighborhoods of 25 de Mayo and Litoral, members of the Association of Urban Producers of Sucre, receive IPS with a basket of food grown by them, among them The colors of tomatoes, radishes (Raphanus sativus) and lettuces stand out.

A total of 83 neighborhoods on the outskirts of Sucre participate in the project, which has the support of the national and departmental governments and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The initiative has already registered 680 members, describes the coordinator of the Urban Garden Project, the young agronomist Guido Zambrana.

A soup of vegetables harvested in their patios, accompanied by tortillas (flat cakes) to which they incorporated various vegetables into the flour, shows during lunch the good cuisine provided by the solar tents (greenhouse gardens) distributed throughout the Sucre mountain range, at 2,760 meters above sea level and 420 kilometers south of La Paz, the political center of the country.

Besides cultivating, they learned to improve their family food security, Tolaba says. "We want to get to zero malnutrition," he said confidently.

In Sucre, temperatures range between 12 and 25 degrees Celsius, but under the solar tents, built by families with support from the government, temperatures exceed 30 degrees and that makes gardening easier.

On occasions, the heat hits the thermometers installed in each orchard and forces the windows of the greenhouses to open, with roofs made of a transparent sheet known as "agrofil" and adobe walls (blocks mixed with mud and straw), built with the orientation of the agronomist Mery Fernández.

Chard and lettuce unfold their fresh leaves freely in the solar tent of Celia Padilla, a woman who left an indigenous community in the neighboring department of Potosí and arrived in Sucre with her husband in 2000, to settle in Bicentenario, an esplanade within the mountainous area that surrounds the city.

Last year, Padilla, also Quechua like most of the association's producers, joined the project with an orchard of only eight square meters, and now she is thinking of building a 500-square-meter orchard with a solar tent.

His partner, a bricklayer with temporary jobs in the city, welcomes the possibility of expanding the growing space, and together they discovered that the home garden provides nutritious food to the home and makes significant profits from the sale of vegetables to neighbors or in an urban market.

With the result of the sales, "I buy milk and meat for the children," she told Tierramérica while holding deep green chard in her hands.

Water for irrigation is scarce, but a government program has donated collection tanks with 2,000 liters of capacity, in which the resource collected during the rainy season is stored to be later distributed by drip to crops.

The opportunity for a food improvement generated a friendly dispute between Alberta Limachi and her husband, both migrants from the village of Puca Puca, 64 kilometers from Sucre.

Owners of a 150-square-meter peri-urban plot had to decide between setting up a family garden there or using it as a garage. Limachi won, one of the leaders of the peri-urban producers, who overflows with an enthusiasm that infects her fellow producers.

“We organize ourselves as women and now we eat calmly because we produce without chemicals,” she explained to Tierramérica, after proudly serving a green bean soda and a vegetable salad.

"Besides, I no longer ask my husband for money and we don't spend on vegetables," she explained, satisfied with helping the family's financial support. His garden is known in the neighborhood for offering lettuce, chard, celery (Apium graveolens), coriander and tomatoes, and his neighbors knock on his door every day to buy his produce.

A committee made up of farmer and consumer associations monitors the ecological quality of production and grants food quality certification, José Zuleta, the national coordinator of the Urban and Peri-urban Agriculture Program, explained to Tierramérica.

"The women are in charge of sowing without fertilizers, they use organic matter that can return to the earth and make production sustainable, and this strengthens their activity," Yusuke Kanae, an agronomist from the FAO office in Sucre, told Tierramérica.

Hailing from Japan, Kanae has passed on technical knowledge and simple practices to producers such as converting vegetables into makeshift pots of various packages, ranging from a soccer ball to the plastic packaging of a television.

"Even if they are 20 Bolivians (a little less than three dollars), they help to buy notebooks and shoes," he recounted as an example of the importance of the contribution of women to the home, in a process of breaking a dependency that he describes as "macho" and which also reconnects the producers with their original culture.

Kanae also supports the introduction of organic vegetables in the city and has already motivated the owners of Cóndor Café, a vegetarian restaurant, to buy the production with a feminine stamp. There, diners enjoy hearty dishes with vegetables from peri-urban gardens, which combine Japanese and Bolivian cuisine and cost just three dollars.

The head of the restaurant, Roger Sotomayor, reaffirmed to Tierramérica his interest in supporting the initiative for family gardens. "We want to favor the environment and encourage the production of vegetables," he said, while emphasizing that the offer is of high quality and its price is 20 percent lower than that of conventional crops.

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